Wednesday, January 26, 2011

random notes from the sky...

Last month I read an article by a Vanity Fair contributor entitled, Miss Manners and the Big C. The author entertained the idea of writing a book on cancer etiquette - he happens to be a cancer patient. It was amusing. Maybe I've had more than one brush with a remark that might be considered a little "off". So in a rash moment of solidarity I fired off a letter to the editor. About three days later I had a mini-panic attack worried they might publish it.

no segue...

The Irish in me compelled me to show my spouse where the 2010 tax documents were, "just in case the plane goes down." He smirked but said nothing. He accepts that "dark" that invades my brain. If you don't understand, read Angela's Ashes or Tis: A Memoir. It will all make sense.

no segue...

Once (a very long time ago) we experimented and gave up television for a year. We enjoyed it. Then the Celtics were in a championship game and out came the box. It's been there ever since. For 26 years. Frankly, I've proposed we conduct the same 'say no to television' experiment again. For just a year. My spouse maintains the devil is the source of that notion. I can write this . . . he doesn't read my blog.

I'd like to list the things I love about Andy Bernard next, but it seems the previous paragraph makes that seem particularly silly.

What about Ben Folds? Can I tell you what I love about him? Another time.

no segue...

Love is knowing there are people in your life who adore you, even though they really know all of your flaws and weaknesses. If it isn't like that (you can't force love) and you wish it was . . . let it go. My sister was always good about reminding me about that . . . "Patti, let it go." (I just saw her pointing her finger at me when I typed that sentence.)

There you go, the first 3,000 miles...

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Posie Gets Cozy and an oh-so-delicious cake...

I've read Posie Gets Cozy for years now, despite the fact that I do not do any needlework, I do not knit and I do not sew. That doesn't mean I can't appreciate her talents.

When I read her recent blog post entitled "New Birthday Cake?" I knew I had to treat myself to this special baking pan. I'm a sucker for a Scandanavian dessert. The pan arrived over the weekend and Sunday . . . well, I made the cake twice. The first time it was covered in powdered sugar, the second time in turbinado.

Alicia made the lemon version, I (of course) opted for the almond. The cake is light . . . my third attempt will definitely be with the vanilla sugar.

You can order the Rehrucken Baking Pan from Pipka's of Door County here. The recipe is as follows:

Pipka's Scandinavian Almond Cake

Beat well:

1 1/4 C sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
2/3 C milk

Then mix in:

1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

And slowly add:

1 stick melted butter

Butter and flour cake pan. Pour batter into pan and bake at 350 for 38-45 minutes until golden brown. Cool in pan for 6 minutes. Invert cake onto cooling rack. Sprinkle with confectionary sugar before serving. Variation; Before pouring batter, sprinkle sliced almonds in the pan bottom. Recipe can easily be doubled. Cake freezes well.

* Substitute lemon extract and add zest of lemon
* Substitute lemon extract and add poppy seeds
* Substitute orange extract and add zest of orange
* Substitute vanilla extract and add blueberries
* Substitute rum extract and top with shredded coconut


* Blueberries
* Chopped dried cherries plus some chocolate chips
* Top cake with sliced almonds
* Spread cake with Nutella and jam!

Pipka's Special Turtle Cake

Mix up original recipe, putting half the dough in the pan. Then drizzle caramel sauce across the dough, then sprinkle mini chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Spoon in the rest of the dough and bake as always. Scrumptious!

Special thanks to Alicia Paulson for allowing me to share her beautiful photos of this delicious cake. It is stunning.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

An inch of snow an hour, red eye flights and cousins...

This was Saturday's view from my cousin's front porch in my home town. It was no easy feat getting to Boston . . . they were under a winter siege - an inch of snow an hour. First flight was canceled due to that heavy snow, that overnight "red eye" thing. So I flew all day Friday. I cracked open my Esquire Magazine and it lasted until Milwaukee. The writing is so good. I've often felt like a traitor to my gender because I prefer this magazine over all others (Bon Appetit is off limits), until I read this. I could not agree more. If Segullah can say it I can say it.

By the time I landed in Boston I had a handwritten list of "things to blog about." Where was it coming from? Was it just the solitary time I was unaccustomed to or was it the pensive mood? Not certain. In any case, look for Ten Reasons Why I love Andy Bernard. Maybe a few others a bit more serious.

I flew 6,000 miles for 20 hours in Boston . . . it was a trip well spent. I saw my sweet uncle Friday night, a man I never heard say a negative thing about a single soul. We talked and even laughed a little. Saturday he slipped right into the next life while I was at his house. The expression "surrounded by family and friends" will always feel different to me now. Even the hard parts of life can be beautiful experiences. In a couple of hours I was on an airplane home, grateful for the things I know to be true.

Slainte, Chick. You're there now.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Caramel Cake and random musings...

I made this cake today. Sometimes I have overwhelming urges to create . . . that's what draws me toward the kitchen. A little sugar, some eggs, a dash of vanilla and who knows what you end up with. This cake is really pretty. Try it.

* 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
* 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For caramel glaze

* 1 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
* 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8-inch square cake pan and line with a square of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Make glaze:

Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil until glaze registers 210 to 212°F on thermometer, 12 to 14 minutes, then stir in vanilla.

Put rack with cake in a shallow baking pan and pour hot glaze over top of cake, allowing it to run down sides. Cool until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.

These arrived today. And these and these. I've been making the pumpkin pound cake recipe in cupcake form ... mini-pound cakes go great in these little glassine bags.

I had a root canal Friday. This "sedation dentistry" thing is killing me. One of the drugs in the "cocktail" is an amnesiac - some things you barely remember, like novocaine in the roof of your mouth. A good thing. Some things you do remember, like today when I realized I asked my spouse to go to the new French bakery and buy me some macarons. Pistachio macarons. It doesn't feel right to remember something so significant a full 24 hours after it happened. Especially when you realize you ate them all. They were great. That much I remember.

At least I don't have to worry about a missing pizza.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sticky Toffee Pudding

I'm not kidding, you guys. I cannot forget how lovely this dessert was, definitely in the top ten of my lifetime. That good. This entire date thing is sort of curious to me. If you asked me if like dates I would have to tell you no. But sticky toffee pudding has dates in it. And I can't stop thinking about it. It made me resolve to try that date shake at Crystal Cove next summer . . . the little shake shack overlooking the cove is famous for that shake. What if, after all this time, it ends up reminding me of sticky toffee pudding? It could happen. Talk about wasted years.

Speaking of wasted years, did you know this ever existed? It did. And it doesn't any longer.

Life is short. Be adventurous.

Toffee Sauce:

2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar


6 ounces pitted dates, preferably Medjool (about 7 dates)
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving


MAKE THE TOFFEE SAUCE: In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/4 cups of the cream with the butter, corn syrup and sugar; bring to a boil. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until a deep amber caramel forms, about 40 minutes. Carefully whisk in the remaining 1 1/4 cups of cream. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a bowl.

MAKE THE CAKE: In a small saucepan, simmer the dates in the water over moderately low heat until the water is nearly absorbed and the dates are soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer the dates and any liquid to a food processor and puree until very smooth.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly butter six 1/2-cup ramekins. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then beat in the date puree. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients. Spoon the batter into the ramekins and smooth the tops. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean; let cool slightly. Using a small serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes level with the rims of the ramekins. Unmold the cakes and invert them onto a wire rack. Slice each cake in half horizontally. Wipe out the ramekins and spoon 1 tablespoon of the toffee sauce into each. Return the bottom layers of the cakes to the ramekins, cut side up. Spoon another tablespoon of the toffee sauce into the ramekins and top with the remaining cake layers. Spoon another tablespoon of the toffee sauce over the cakes and spread evenly. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the toffee is bubbling around the edges.

Let the puddings cool for 5 minutes, then run a thin-bladed knife around the insides of the ramekins; invert each pudding onto a dessert plate. Rewarm the remaining toffee sauce and spoon some around the puddings. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

I'm making this for my own birthday. No joke.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

packed Saturdays...

It started with a baby shower at my house for Bridget's friend Tamara.

We had delicious Greek salad (awesome job, Cam and Lauren) and assorted quiches like spinach and feta, sundried tomato and goat cheese, sausage and mushroom and ham and broccoli. Check out the delicious bread basket. Not pictured, some lucious apple crumb cheesecake bars with a caramel sauce. Busbys rule. They were good.

Thirty minutes after the shower started so did the Baptism. The famous "George from Seminary" sent me a text at 4:30 p.m. Friday night. Two years he came to my Seminary class. So I excused myself and left things in the hands of Bridget and Lauren and headed to the Stake Center. This is my 'genuine, from the bottom of my heart' happy face.

And with another boy I love, a former student who was baptizing George...

I hopped in the car and ran back to the shower . . . it was winding down. I saw old friends quizzing Bridget, not to mention Phil. It was fun.

Later that evening Bridget and I watched boys eat meat in a not so sparingly way. The company was awesome.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gooey butter cake and random bits of nothing...

This first paragraph is fascinating. Please read to the end of the entire post. It might get better, but I'm uncertain. It's January and it's been cold. I never wear a coat and I'm wearing a coat. It snowed on Monday. I had my teeth cleaned on Tuesday. I made a menu for a baby shower for Saturday (quiche and Greek salad again). I returned my (unread) library books that were making me feel bad about myself first thing this morning, on the way to the office. About one hour ago I realized I'm over the adjustment phase of a new calling (5 months in) and moving into the this is wonderful phase of it all.

No segue.

Best Thing I Ever Ate, I love you. I saw the Gooey Butter Cake (a famous St. Louis tradition) and was intrigued. Most recipes you see out there in the blogosphere are made with a cake mix. This is the New York Times recipe. Typically I shy away from all things yeast. Maybe using yeast is one of my New Year's Resolutions?

3 tablespoons milk at room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the topping:

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling.

1. In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly.
2. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. Beat dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.
3. Press dough into an ungreased 9-by 13-inch baking dish at least 2 inches deep. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare topping, in a small bowl, mix corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.
5. Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use a spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes; cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in center when done. Allow to cool in pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.

Yield: 16 to 20 servings

The cake mix version has cream cheese in it. And I once saw Paula Deen make a version of her Gooey Butter Cake with some toffee bits. Another time with some pumpkin.

I don't know why, but everyone seems to be talking about Gooey Butter Cake lately. Smitten Kitchen, also awesome. She is the pop culture queen of foodies.

No segue.

Sunday I asked my grandson, "Do you like my red nails? I don't usually have red nails, so I'm wondering if you like them." Pensive. More thinking. "I don't really care about nails." Point taken. So I press on. "But what do you think when you look at them? I'm asking because one day some girl is going to ask you the same sort of question . . .and if you don't answer her she's going to think you don't care about her." I said that. He said, "Grandma, you're not my girlfriend." End of story.

No segue.

I was reading a book (not one of the books I returned unread to the library, which I guess is fairly obvious) that quoted the famous "unknown author" - it said, "Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." Who wouldn't google this? I'm really asking. I just wanted to know, WHO said this? So I set out on a quest to discover the source. Two hours later (don't worry, I only missed a little bit of bad reality television) I accepted the fact that the author was really unknown. And then I thought, well, that's pretty sad. Here's this awesome sentiment that is pretty well known . . . and we don't even know you, author. Shouldn't someone know you? And then I realized that someone that wise would never care if they received the credit. And that's when I felt a little like my granddaughter Grace, who said this to her mother in the car the other day:

Every time I think of the name Megan I think of the nickname Meggie. Every time I think of the nickname Meggie I think of the name Meg. Every time I think of the name Meg I think of the girl from Hercules. Every time I think of Meg from Hercules I think of Meg Whitman. Every time I think of Meg Whitman I think of that guy that won and how much I can't stand him. And every time I think of that I think of how I talk too much.

I wonder who came up with the idea for gooey butter cake, anyway?

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Saturday, January 1, 2011